Ryan Nelsen, Shane Smeltz and Michael McGlinchey are the three overage players headlining the 18-man New Zealand mens football team named today for the London Olympics.
While mens football at the Olympics is restricted to players aged under 23 with just three overage players per squad, New Zealand coach Neil Emblen has been able to name 13 players who have been capped in full internationals including established All Whites Tommy Smith and Chris Wood along with Kosta Barbarouses, Marco Rojas and Jake Gleeson who have been regular inclusions in squads over recent seasons.
England based Cameron Howieson and Tim Payne as well as ASB Premiership trio Ian Hogg, Adam McGeorge and Tim Myers all recently made their senior debut on the All Whites tour to the USA or the OFC Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands.
The squad is rounded out by American based goalkeeper Michael OKeeffe and some of the domestic scenes most promising talent including James Musa and Dakota Lucas from Team Wellington, Alex Feneridis from Auckland City and Adam Thomas from Waikato FC.
Ian Hogg and captain Ryan Nelsen are the only returnees from the squad that travelled to Beijing in 2008.
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general and selector Kereyn Smith says shes delighted to welcome the players to the Olympic team. Since New Zealands debut in the sport in Beijing, football has gone from strength to strength, she said. Participation numbers in the sport are high and we acknowledge the power of the players, in particular leaders like Ryan Nelsen, to keep this momentum alive.
Were sure our U-23 team will be looking forward to making their own mark in a tough Olympic competition.
Emblen said whittling down the squad was always going to cause headaches but he feels hes found the right balance.
Its a small squad for a tournament of this stature which means there were some very tough decisions to make but I feel the group selected gives us some tactical flexibility as well being pretty exciting, Emblen said.
The overage players give us a good balance and experience down the spine of the team - weve been able to pick the All Whites premier defender, first choice midfielder and most prolific striker even though those players arent required to be released by their clubs.
Ryans influence in particular will be massive for a group that includes players as young as 17 and any time you can include a player in your squad that was commonly regarded as one of the best at the World Cup in South Africa its a boost for your sides chances.
Then you throw in the likes of Smith, Barbarouses, Wood, Rojas and Gleeson and the team core has got a good solid look to it, but well need every single member of the squad to be at their best against some very tough teams.
In addition to the squad confirmed today, four Wellington players have been placed on standby. They are Cameron Lindsay from the Wellington Phoenix and Michael Eagar, Luke Rowe and goalkeeper Scott Basalaj from Team Wellington.
The Oly Whites leave for London on July 9 via Asia where they play Olympic-bound Japan and Korea Republic on July 11 and 14 respectively before meeting fellow finalists UAE in Europe in their final warm up on July 19.
New Zealand have been grouped with Belarus, Egypt and Brazil in Group C of the 16 nation finals, opening their campaign against the Belarusians in Coventry on July 26, one day before the games opening ceremony.
Mens football has been in the Olympic Games since 1900 and featured at both London 1908 (won by Great Britain) and London 1948 (won by Sweden).
The current U-23 rules have been in place since Atlanta 1996. Sixteen teams will compete in the London tournament at venues including Old Trafford, St James Park, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Wembley.
The New Zealand Olympic Team today stands at 154 with the full team to reach approximately 185.
The Football Ferns 18 player squad for the Olympics will be announced on June 29.
New Zealand mens football team for London Olympics
1-Jake GLEESON (GK) (Portland Timbers, USA)
18-Michael O'KEEFFE (GK) (Fairfield University, USA)
3-Ian HOGG (Auckland City)
4-Tim MYERS (Waitakere United)
5-Tommy SMITH (Ipswich Town, ENG)
6-Ryan NELSEN* (Captain, Queens Park Rangers, ENG)
12-Adam THOMAS (Waikato FC)
14-James MUSA (Team Wellington)
2-Tim PAYNE (Blackburn Rovers, ENG)
8-Michael McGLINCHEY* (Central Coast Mariners, AUS)
13-Alex FENERIDIS (Auckland City)
15-Cameron HOWIESON (Burnley, ENG)
17-Adam McGEORGE (Auckland City)
7-Kosta BARBAROUSES (Alania Vladikavkaz, RUS)
9-Shane SMELTZ* (Perth Glory, AUS)
10-Chris WOOD (West Bromwich Albion, ENG)
11-Marco ROJAS (Melbourne Victory, AUS)
16-Dakota LUCAS (Sunshine Coast, AUS)
Michael EAGAR (Team Wellington)
Cameron LINDSAY (Wellington Phoenix)
Luke ROWE (Team Wellington)
Scott BASALAJ (Team Wellington)
Olympic Build-Up - Men
New Zealand U-23 v Japan U-23
New Zealand U-23 v Korea Republic U-23
Seoul, South Korea
New Zealand U-23 v UAE U-23
New Zealand Olympic Schedule - Men
New Zealand v Belarus
City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry
7.45pm (6.45am, July 27 NZT)
New Zealand v Egypt
Old Trafford, Manchester
12pm (11pm, July 29 NZT)
New Zealand v Brazil
St James Park, Newcastle
2.30pm (1.30am, August 2 NZT)
Photo Credit- Getty Images